Wednesday, March 30, 2011


As part of the field trip program planned by Kyushu University, we managed to have a glimpse of the very essence of Japanese cultures during our visit to Nagasaki few days back. The first day of of the trip, we went to Yoshinogari Historical Park and Ishiibi Historic Water Facilities at Saga-ken. Yoshinogari ruins during Yayoi period (3BC–3AD) is believed to be the ancient country of ‘Yamatai’, modern day Japan, which treasured lots of historic importance in terms of relics including copper/bronze knives, glass beads and cultivation of red-grained rice. This period also witnessed the shift from nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlements thus, elevating its cultural value. One is undoubtedly mesmerized by the pristine beauty of the civilization; the systematically planned settlements, the existence of rules and order in the community, the advancements in terms of fortification against invasion and the advance used of mortar paste (cement and sand) for construction. It was indeed a life of seclusion for the people back then – a culture that continued for generations until Japan opened itself to the rest of the world under Meiji Ishin (Restoration) in 1868.

On the other hand, Ishiibi Water Facilities offered a completely new spectrum. Once an artificial gutter and irrigation channel designed to enhance the cultivation of rice in the Yamato-cho area, the restored Megumi River proved to be functioning effectively. The restored river is currently open to public as a recreational park where visitors are expected to be impressed by the astonishing views of cherry blossoms, sakura (). The main uniqueness of Megumi River lies in its design of being among the first Japanese man-made river restoration program. The main channel was diverted to smaller canals allowing sufficient amount of water to flood the adjacent paddy fields thus, improving the rate of rice production yearly. Also, the river diversion allows longer distance for water’s self-purification process in removing suspended solids that present on its surface.

We checked-in at Nanpuro Hotel in Shimabara for a night. This was the author’s first time experience to stay in a typical Japanese hotel, complete with its very own famous public bath, onsen and massage therapy spa. At dinner, we were all fully fed and watered by the traditional style Japanese dishes and beverages, served in a way that might prevent the weak of hearts to savour! The session ended up with brief speeches and introductions among the participants as well as the 先生’s. As the night gets older, one can no longer resisted the dripping sounds of water that splashed from the nearby onsen. The author together with his friends rushed to the bath and enjoyed the night in full immersion. To our dismayed, the onsen was not the type of mixed men and women hotspring we had hoped for! As the hot water spring (400C) washed away all the remnants of the past of our bodies, so as our spirits and thoughts were weaved anew into the kind of which we never felt before – for sure, that’s the transformation that we had wished for! We concluded the day with a mini nomikai (飲み会) and spent the rest of the night listening to what the others had to say with stories as myriad as science, geeks, cultures and supernaturals. The last thing we know was that we were scrapping the bottom of the o-sake (お酒) bottle, the next moment we opened our eyes, it was already dawn and Nagasaki’s morning sunrise greeted us with a smile!

The next day, we visited Yutorogi no Yu (Hotspring for Foot) and sightseeing at Shimabara Castle (島原城). The hotspring for foot is quite similar to a normal hotspring, the only difference is that visitors are only allowed to immerse their feet. Shimabara Castle stands majestically like any other typical Japanese castles. Built by Matsukura Shigemasa in 1624 and demolished in 1874, the present structure was reconstructed in 1964. One of the attractions was that visitors would have the opportunity to snap pictures with individuals impersonating samurai and shinobi around the castle’s entrance – if you’re lucky! – because they are the hotshots!

Lastly, we went to Oonokoba Observation Post for Volcano and Unzen Disaster Memorial. Both places were built not only to commemorate and showed what happened to the affected areas and how people confronted it but also aim to raise public awareness in regards of Mt. Unzen-Fugen volcanic eruptions in the early stage of Edo period and 1990 – 1996 of Heisei period. The site reminded me of how lucky I am to be in a country with less significant natural calamities. Despite countless blows from Mother Nature, still Japan proved to be a worthy son by being the frontier of sustainable developments and tirelessly championing the course of environment.

This field trip has been truly a memorable exposure to the author personally. It has imprinted a more intricate yet remarkable site of the Japanese in particular. Should anyone look for a place where traditional cultures coincide with modern lifestyles, then search no further because Japan is the answer!

Till the next posting folks!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


It's roughly about three months since the year 2011 unfolds but our intimate rapport with Mother Nature seems lost along the way, as we gallantly smeared the very face of the Earth, leaving detrimental scars. In that pursuit, we deliberately forget the impending consequences of our doings, in which most cases often claimed the lives of the innocents, not once but thrice!

The world is yet again struck in light by the three significant earthquakes that ruined the city of Christchurch, New Zealand (6.3) in February, Tohoku region, Japan (8.9) and Myanmar (6.8) both in March. The devastations they brought were all too immense and unfathomable as the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key was reported as saying "we maybe witnessing New Zealand's darkest day..." Similarly, in Japan - the country dubbed as champion of sustainable developments and frontier of disaster preventions - Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan said "in the 65 years after the end of WWII, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan." Being in Japan myself, though not exactly affected by neither the shocks or the Tsunami, I seconded the prime minister's remark. To complicate the matter more, Japan not only had to deal with the aftermaths of the earthquake and Tsunami but also the exposure to radiation as a result of Fukushima I and II, Onagawa and Tokai nuclear power plants explosions in which the Japanese Nuclear Agency repeatedly asserted "doing the best they can to cool down the reactors."

Likewise, Myanmar - surprisingly not part of The Ring of Fire region - encountered the same fate as the country was shaken in tremors. So far, according to anonymity condition, more than 70 casualties (The Star) were reported and still counting. However, it was believed that the death toll could be escalating because the junta government is said to be reluctant to release information.

That said, with the rapid and not-so-friendly gestures portrayed by Nature lately, one may come into a general conclusion and begin to ask the question of 'when will be the quakes in us be unleashed?' The 'quakes' here being referred to our conscience in realizing the importance of balance and harmony between us and our surroundings. Of course, one may argued that natural disasters are spontaneous and that we are not to be directly blame - in case one predicates one's reasonings based on this apathetic belief, yes - but wait not until you witnessed for yourself a wall of sea water coming towards you (3-4 storeys high) while your ground is trembling. Logically speaking, I would rather succumb to the notion that we should be more tolerable and in truce with Nature - like what we used to - rather than be sorry later.

It's time for us to deploy our own search and rescue parties to our hearts, just in case, who knows buried deep within the rubbles of the broken pieces of affection we once had towards Nature, we may find the long last evidence of hope and rebuild a new monument - preoccupied with earthquake resistance design - to our liking, we by choice, chose to build!

Till the next postings.
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